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Christiansted, St. Croix

     Built by the Danes in the mid-18th Century, this small and charming town is composed of graceful neo-classical buildings, many of which contain hotels, shops and restaurants. Everything is lovingly maintained; each block is filled with unique architectural details and fascinating historical artifacts. In fact, the entire area around the wharf has been designated the Christiansted National Historic Site, including yellow-brick Fort Christiansvaern (1749), which once protected townspeople from pirates.  Sitting at harborís edge, the pastel blue, green and ochre buildings are trimmed in crisp white with red tin roofs. The abundance of ochre, or mustard yellow, comes from the Danish yellow brick brought over from Denmark as shipís ballast during the 18th century

     The Christiansted historical area encompasses about 27 acres and is maintained by the United States National Park Service. It is located along the Christiansted waterfront and it includes what used to be a busy Danish business and trading center. It was once the area used to dock ships carrying human cargo, rum and molasses bound for the triangular trade route through the Caribbean to Europe and Africa. Christiansted is a very interesting town and well worth exploring.    

     Lush green hills provide Christianstedís backdrop. Alleyways filled with unique shops lead off a waterfront boardwalk. The town has several small hotels, many cozy eateries, bars, and a number of must-see historic sites and museums. Your first stop in town should be the National Park Serviceís Visitorís Center, located in the historic Fort Christianvaern, which is part of the Christiansted National Historic Site. Pick up a free walking tour map to make sure you do not miss any of the important landmarks. The local government also has the Christiansted Visitor's Center at 53A Company Street. Stop here for brochures on things to do across St. Croix.

Christiansted On Your Own - You'll notice that many street signs are still in Danish.

Fort Christiansvern

1. Fort Christiansvaern  -  Among the buildings overlooking the harbor is Fort Christiansvern, a mustard-yellow brick fort built by the Danes  in 1749 to ward off pirates and threats from other countries. Fort Christian is complete with dungeons and cannons (although it never saw battle). This is the best-preserved colonial fortification in the Virgin Islands. It's maintained as a historic monument by the National Park Service. Its original four-sided, star-shaped design was in accordance with the most advanced military planning of its era. The fort is the site of the St. Croix military museum, which documents police work on the island from the late 1800s to the present. Photos, weapons, and artifacts help bring to life the police force's past here. The admission price of $3 also includes admission to the Steeple Building . The fort is open daily from 8am to 4:45pm.

2. Scale House -  This yellow-sided building with a cedar-capped roof is located near the harbor front. It was originally built as the Old Scalehouse in 1856, to replace a similar structure that had burned down.  Today it is the city's post office and part of the National Parks Service. In its heyday, all taxable goods leaving and entering Christiansted's harbor were weighed and inspected here. The old scales are still there.  In front of the building lies one of the most charming squares in the Caribbean.

Old Scalehouse

     After merchants passed through the scale house, their next stop was the Customs House where they would pay taxes. With your back to the scalehouse, turn left and walk through the parking lot to the foot of the white-sided gazebo-like band shell that sits in the center of a park named after Alexander Hamilton. The yellow-brick building with the ornately carved brick staircase is the:

2. Old Customs House - This is currently the headquarters of the National Park Service. Old Danish Customs House and Post Office, built in 1751 and converted to the Christiansted Library in 1926.The gracefully proportioned 16-step welcoming staircase was added in 1829 as an embellishment to an older building. (There are public toilets on the ground floor.)

3. The Danish West India and Guinea Warehouse - The building that houses the post office Danish West India and Guinea Company Warehouse [Click for larger picture (1600 ◊ 1064)]was built in 1749 as the warehouse for the Danish West India and Guinea Company. The structure was once three times larger than it is today and included storerooms and lodging for staff. Go to the building's side entrance, on Church Street, and enter the rear courtyard. For many years, this was the site of some of the largest slave auctions in the Caribbean.



The Danish West India and Guinea Warehouse

4.  The Steeple Building - Exit from the fort, and head straight down the tree-lined path toward the most visible steeple in Christiansted, appropriately named: The Steeple Building. The Steeple building is the islands first Lutheran church and is now a museum.  The National Park Service Museum displays St. Croix's history from the time of the Indians.
     Completed in 1753, the Steeple Building was embellished with a steeple between 1794 and 1796. For a time it served as the headquarters of the Church of Lord God of Sabaoth. The original structure can still be visited. Inside is a local history museum. Hours are daily from 8am to 4:45 p.m. Admission is included in the $3 ticket for Fort Christiansvaern.


The Steeple Building

5. Government House - The Government House on King Street is open to the public and worth a visit. This served as residence for Governors of the Danish West Indies and offices of the colonial government. The Baroque central wing was built in 1747 as a private residence. It was purchased as the Governor's residence in 1771, and was expanded to include the planter's residence to the west in 1828 and the eastern porch in the 1830s.  

The European-style garden here contains a scattering of trees, flowerbeds, and walkways. The antique building that surrounds the gardens was formed from the union of two much older town houses in the 1830s. The gardens are open Monday to Friday,    8 a.m. to 5p.m.                                                         Government House

6.  Alexander Hamilton House -  A row of arcaded buildings across the street from the Government House includes the Alexander Hamilton House. This famous old West Indian building is right on the Christiansted waterfront. It's based around a 250-year-old Danish-inspired main house, once the home of Alexander Hamilton who was born in Nevis in 1757. He only lived on the island until the age of nine, and then moved to St. Croix with his mother. Later in his life, he helped draft the U.S. Constitution and was the first secretary of the Treasury. He was an out spoken advocate of the emancipation of slavery.


5. Apothecary Hall - A short distance up Company Street is Apothecary Hall, an 18th century pharmacy now  housing a charming collection of shops and restaurants.  The fully restored pharmacy opened in its original location, in 1987. Today the pharmacy is used as an exhibit for the public. The St. Croix Archeological Society plans  to use the old Apothecary as a museum that will offer the public a chance to explore evidence of the Indian tribes that lived here during 3,000 years of the island's human history. The collection will display such items as pottery, axe heads, beads and an ancient canoe. Stop for a refreshment break at Luncheria in Apothecary Hall Courtyard, 2111 Company St. The bar's tables are grouped in a courtyard shaded by trees. The owners are margarita specialists, stocking more types of tequila (15+) than any other bar in the neighborhood. Luncheria serves burritos, tostadas, enchiladas, and tacos, as well as daily specials and vegetarian meals.

 6. Florence Williams Library - At the corner of King Cross Street turn right and walk one block to King Street. On the far corner you'll see the Florence Williams Library, built of Flensborg brick, which was used by the Danes as ballast. Lutheran Church [Click for larger picture (1600 ◊ 1200)]Turn right on King Street to the Lord God of Sabaoth Lutheran Church, built in the 1740s. The floor tiles and grave markers were moved from the former Lutheran Church. The Gothic Revival tower was added in 1831 to the Dutch Renaissance main structure.

7.  Lord God of Sabaoth Lutheran Church - This church was established in 1734. Take a moment to admire its neoclassical facade. This is Christiansted's oldest church. Begun in about 1740 as the Dutch Reformed Church, it became the property of the Lutheran Church when they moved here from the Steeple Building in the early 1830s.

                                                                                             Lord God of Sabbath Lutheran church              

8.  Visitors Bureau - Just off Company, on Queen Cross Street, is the Visitors Bureau, a source of helpful information. Continue along Company to Market Place, especially colorful on Saturday mornings.

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